Live Review : Steel Panther + Gus G @ Academy, Manchester on February 11th 2019
I first encountered Steel Panther at Download 2009, they were directly after my beloved Sabbat on the third stage back in the days before it became a pop punk refuge. I stuck around to see what all the fuss was about and found them to be perversely enjoyable, but also felt that their approach was very much a one trick pony and predicted that within the year their star would wane.
Well don’t I look silly now, as ten years and four albums later the joke is still packing them in as tonight’s sold out show (the second of two at the academy) proves. The most ironic thing about tonight however isn’t the ‘wink wink aren’t we so clever for acting so stupid’ humour of the headliners, it is the fact that Gus G is the support act.
Steel Panther are a love-letter to metal at its most dumb, single-minded and puerile, Gus G however is probably one of the one virtuoso musicians around and produces music that is breathtakingly complex and intricate, quite the oxymoron to the headliner. Concentrating mostly on last year’s “Fearless”, we do get tracks from all three of Gus G’s solo albums (through sadly no Firewind) and plenty of six string magic. His solo stuff maybe more pop rock than the power metal of his day job but (to steal a quote) boy can he play guitar. It is, as always, an utter joy to watch him summoning the most magical sounds from his instrument and the crowd, who to be honest have come along primarily to laugh at songs which mention arse and tits a lot, receive his fretboard heroics rapturously.
As said it is to Steel Panther’s credit that they have managed to build a lengthy and lucrative career with essentially one calling card. They sing extremely rude songs in the style of an eighties hair metal band. Tonight they are stripping things back (stop sniggering things at the back) and giving Manchester a taste of the show that hauled round Sunset strip for years back when they were known as Metal Skool. This means we get a scaled down show (minimal production compared to when they headlined the arena a few years back), a concentration on earlier tracks from “Feel the Steel”, a LOT more between songs ‘banter’ and a haul of covers. I’ve seen Steel Panther a good number of times so for me both their own material and their risqué comments are wearing a bit thin, but the covers, the covers were bloody brilliant. ‘Jump' felt like the nearest I would ever get to seeing a Diamond Dave fronted Halen (very much number one of my bucket list) and trying hard not to once again enrage the Def Leppard fanbase but ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me' was for me far far superior to the version I witnessed before Christmas. However top of the lot was 'Crazy Train' which was uncannily amazing, when Ozzy finally does retire they should get Michael Starr to carry on touring in his place as his impression was faultless.
What the covers proved to me was that putting aside the comedy sexism and humorous offensiveness, Steel Panther are actually a bloody good band consisting of four excellent musicians. In many ways the joke lyrics and onstage tomfoolery hides actually how accomplished they are and the main thought I had as I walked away from the Academy (horse from screaming along the words to ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’) was how good a ‘serious’ Steel Panther album could sound…
Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki